Seminal Plasma Proteins and Sperm Resistance to Stress


Author’s address (for correspondence): T Muiño-Blanco, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain. E-mail:


The role of seminal plasma (SP) in mammalian sperm function remains largely a matter of speculation as both inhibitory and stimulating effects have been found. Specific components of SP, particularly proteins, are adsorbed onto the surface of ejaculated sperm as they pass through the male and female reproductive tracts. These sperm coating components seem to have the important function of maintaining the stability of the membrane up to the process of capacitation (decapacitation factors). Therefore, they must be removed, modified or masked before the spermatozoa undergo the acrosome reaction, an essential process for successful fertilization. It is well known that low temperatures alter the function of spermatozoa. Cold shock results in the destabilization of sperm membranes and impairment of sperm function, and it is also well known that ram spermatozoa are more sensitive to cold-shock stress than those of other species. The addition of SP proteins to spermatozoa before and/or after cooling is able to minimize cryoinjury effects. The major proteins in ram SP which are able to protect and repair the cold-shock damage to sperm contain fibronectin-II domains. The significance of this domain and the role of these proteins in sperm capacitation and gamete interaction are discussed.